Gilbert and Sullivan Archive




Paul McShane: This afternoon, Helen Roberts told us that the role she LEAST liked playing was Gianetta. She hated having to dress up to 150% of her real size with bustles, hooped skirts, etc. and most particularly, hated to sing Gianetta's aria at the start of the Act I Finale. Are there other Gianettas out there who feel the same way?


Bruce Miller: The vocal abilities, or lack thereof, of alleged baritone Rutland Barrington is one which has long been discussed. He came to G & S as "an actor who can sing" rather than primarily a concert or opera singer. Without having much direct evidence to base the following conjecture upon, the circumstantial evidence suggests: That when Sullivan auditioned him in his rooms, he was able to discern that Barrington had a fairly decent high range; that in fact he probably should have been a tenor, but was not sufficiently schooled to have gained the technique necessary to sing in that range. The earliest ballads and songs Sullivan wrote for Barrington contained more high notes than in the later ones. From this I would extrapolate that unfortunate experience with Barrington under actual performance conditions led Sullivan to write more conservatively (i.e. lower) for him in subsequent roles. And also, we do know that "Fair moon" was actually cut at some early point for reasons at least partially due, no doubt, to Barrington's problems in executing it. This no doubt also accounts for the alternate transposition(s) Sullivan authorized.

It is also on record that no part for Barrington was contemplated in the opera after PINAFORE, PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Barrington himself tells us that he appealed to the authors, who eventually did write for him the small part of Sergeant of Police (a not terribly musically demanding one, as it turned out). That Barrington improved significantly is also on the record. It was noted by one critic that Barrington sang the role of Pooh-Bah completely in tune, to his pleasant surprise. Ralph McPhail: Which Gilbert attributed to "first-night nervousness"! David Duffey: Barrington, though, got a part in GONDOLIERS, even though he had 'defected' for YEOMEN OF THE GUARD.

Arthur Robinson: As I recall, according to Stedman, Gilbert made this comment of Barrington after the first night of HIS EXCELLENCY; but he may have made it on several occasions--we all know that WSG wasn't above re-using his good lines (or even his not-so-good ones, as when Jack Point stole some jokes from FOGGERTY'S FAIRY).Michael Walters: Was it not Jessie Bond who made that comment about singing in tune - rather than a critic? Bruce Miller: She may have quoted it, possibly without attribution, but I'm reasonably certain that it was in one of the opening night reviews.


David Duffey: Let us consider Richard Temple. (I wonder whether he took his stage name from Templemeads Station in Bristol - his accent sounds as if it could have been Bristolian --- sorry I digress). Tom Shepard: There is a contemporary actor named Richard Schull - but I don't know if he was ever a Temple. David Duffey: Temple does well for parts up to PATIENCE. Then he gets Strephon - and has his song cut (Fold Your Flapping Wings.). Arac has a song in PRINCESS IDA, but is hardly a central character. In MIKADO he was given an Act II only part, and only just avoided getting his song cut. RUDDIGORE had him in another Act II only part, and when it gets to GONDOLIERS he was (I understand) offered Antonio, and refused it. Who can blame him? Did Gilbert take against him? Bruce Miller: You forgot to mention that his only big song in YEOMEN was cut as well! ("A laughing boy but yesterday"). I had not heard that he had been offered Antonio, but surely that part would have been expanded had he done it. But wasn't getting screwed in YEOMEN the last straw?

Michael P. Walters: This question has been frequently asked before, but possibly not on the net. It should not be forgotten that Temple often had quite important roles in the curtain raisers, which would make it an advantage for him to have a late entry or small part in the main opera. There has been a lot of speculation as to Temple's real name, Richard Temple Cobb, Richard Barker Cobb, or various other combinations, have of been claimed, but my sources indicate that his father was also called Richard Temple, so I suspect that Richard Temple's real name was - Richard Temple! There have been claims that he was offered Antonio, but I know of no actual evidence to support this claim. If there is any, I'd like to hear it. Bruce Miller: It would seem far more likely that the part intended for Temple in GONDOLIERS would have been the Grand Inquisitor. As to whether he was actually offered the part - I'm not certain this is ascertainable anymore. His fate in YEOMEN cannot have encouraged him to stay.


John Shea: One of the memorable unplanned moments in the history of the Savoy-aires (the G&S community group of Chicago's northern suburbs) came during a 1977 performance of the GONDOLIERS in a large high school auditorium. The finale of Act 1 was bubbling merrily along with our beloved maestro, Frank Miller, conducting his favorite Sullivan score, when suddenly a loud alarm sounded and the performance ground to a halt. Half a dozen of our tech people ran through the auditorium, through doors, up and down halls to try to find the alarm. On stage, our Marco alertly stepped forward to assure the stunned audience that everything was all right, there was no fire. The curtain was rung down and the audience was advised to file out for an intermission.

After some fifteen ear-splitting minutes, the alarm was located and stilled. Meanwhile, we were all trying to regain our composure and to persuade Frank Miller to continue the performance (he was convinced that the interruption was an act of sabotage). Following a much longer-than-usual intermission, we resumed the show at the beginning of Act 2.

At the point in the second act when the Plaza-Toros are greeted by the jointly-ruling kings of Barataria, the Duke (myself) went through the litany of Things Expected For A State Visit that were lacking--guard of honor, refreshments, royal salute, triumphal arches--with the Duke's "No" to each rhetorical question repeated by Marco and Giuseppe louder and louder until my last line: "The bells set ringing?" "No!" "Yes! One! the visitors'; and I rang it myself!" [ This produced a new thread see STAGECRAFT.] Except that I substituted "Yes! One! the fire alarm! And we couldn't turn the damn thing off!" (Our Don Alhambra, Dave Stockwell, had suggested the idea to me.) Marco and Giuseppe broke up, the audience erupted, and Frank Miller in the pit laughed until his huge body shook. A true story, and one of our company's gladdest moments.

Philip Sternenberg: Is this the same Frank Miller who composed a THESPIS score in 1954? John Shea: Yes, the Frank Miller who conducted that performance of The GONDOLIERS is the same one who composed the score for THESPIS. When Frank Miller was first cellist with the NBC symphony under Toscanini, he maintained an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan dating from his days as a teenage prodigy playing in a house orchestra for (as I remember him telling it) Patience. He conducted some G & S groups during his New York days; 1954, the year you give for the composition of THESPIS, would be just at the end of Toscanini's career and of the NBC Symphony. When Miller came to Chicago to play under Fritz Reiner in 1960, he felt the lack of a G & S company to conduct, so he founded one of his own--the Savoy-aires--in 1965. My own work with the company began in 1973, in a performance of Miller's THESPIS. Frank continued to conduct the group until 1984; he died in 1986. The company has gone through the entire G & S repertory (including, we think, the first GRAND DUKE ever done in the Chicago area--in 1980), and continues to give annual performances. Our Savoynet colleague David Craven is an active member, as is Henry Odum. Bruce Miller: I have always wondered if the Frank Miller of the Thespis score was the NBC cellist. Thank you for the information. Tom Shepard: I think I missed the answer. Is it the same Frank Miller? Bruce Miller: Yes. Frank Miller was always a standout character with the NBC Symphony - during that final concert when Toscanini blanked out while conducting, if was Frank who stepped forward and held the orchestra together long enough so that Toscanini could continue when he recovered.

Page created 30 June 1997